LANDER — To dodge the threat of local ambulance workers going on strike, Fremont County has increased its payout to the ambulance company by nearly 30%.
The employees of Frontier Ambulance unionized with United Steelworkers in Lander, Wyoming, in June, and in recent days the workers had threatened to go on strike by Oct. 27 unless they got better wages.
Because Frontier Ambulance receives a $1.45 million annual subsidy from the Fremont County Commission, the company turned to the commission for negotiations in a Monday meeting held privately in executive session.
Commissioners held a public vote after the executive session to increase the annual subsidy by $386,796 per year. The vote was unanimous in favor of the increase, with only Riverton’s commission delegate Ron Fabrizius absent from the meeting.
There’s no sunset date on the increase, Commission Chairman Larry Allen told Cowboy State Daily after the vote. It’s in perpetuity and part of a long-term plan for ambulance employees to receive a 4% raise every year.
Commissioner Mike Jones said the county made an offer to deliver half the increase now and another half at the county’s next budget session in June, but Frontier didn’t go for that.
“They rejected that and wanted the full amount now,” said Jones. “Which was disappointing.”
The county looks through its finances, salaries and other monetary needs each budget session.
Diane Lane, Frontier Ambulance director for Fremont County, did not respond by Monday to a Saturday voicemail requesting comment.
The lowest-paid EMTs at Frontier in Fremont County make $12.58 an hour. They are short-staffed, recruitment is difficult and EMTs can work difficult, sleepless hours, Wyotoday reports.
First In Memory
For Sen. Cale Case, R-Lander, who has been a state lawmaker for three decades, Monday’s agreement averts what would have been the first strike in memory in Fremont County.
“I don’t know of a strike, and I’ve lived here my whole life,” he said. “I don’t know how people will feel about public safety employees striking. This is a pretty conservative place. I can see it backfiring for them.”
Clair McFarland can be reached at Clair@CowboyStateDaily.com.